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California Timeline: Car Purchase, License & Registation, HOV Stickers, and FasTrak CAV Toll-Tag

tps5352

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Oct 30, 2019
481
302
Bay-Delta Region, California, USA
If you are like me, the waiting times to achieve various milestones within the new car purchase process seem interminable. Here is my own (ongoing) timeline (which I will update in the coming days/weeks):
  1. January 29, 2021: Ordered new “2021” (out-of-state) inventory Model X ($100 deposit).
  2. March 17, 2021: Received car, with temporary, paper license plates, at Tesla service center (Tesla filed pertinent California DMV paperwork sometime thereafter).*
  3. April 17, 2021: Received permanent metal license plates and registration from DMV.

  4. April 19, 2021: Mailed (via USPS 1st Class mail) High Occupany Vehicle sticker application (w/$22 check) to DMV.**
  5. June 17, 2021: Check cashed by DMV.
  6. June 28, 2021: HOV stickers received by mail (DMV envelope stamp-dated June 24, 2021).***

  7. June 29, 2021: Submitted online application for FasTrak Clean Air Vehicle Toll-tag.
  8. July 1, 2021: Received FasTrak email confirmation notification--my CAV tag application was reviewed and approved, and my CAV toll tag mailed.****
  9. July 3, 2021: FasTrak CAV Toll-tag and supporting materials received.*****
    ___________
    * I should have applied for the HOV stickers then--using VIN and temporary plate number--instead of waiting a month for the permanent plates.
    ** Distance from my home to main Sacramento DMV (HOV Program) offices = ~20 miles.. Distance to FasTrak offices = ~75 miles.
    *** Time needed to receive HOV stickers: 70 days.
    **** Now that is how an online application program should be run! Kudos to FasTrak!
I present this to (a) provide comparative, up-to-date 2021 timing information to interested readers and (b) kick-off a new thread about what I regard as an annoying (at best) or significant (depending on your point of view) problem with the HOV-sticker application process at DMV. To be constructive, I hope to recommend possible steps to take to possibly goad DMV towards faster turn around; or at least to improve DMV communication with applicants. More on that to come. In the meantime, has anyone already taken steps to try to improve DMV's response time? I am sort of surprised that some attorney or lawmaker with an electric or hydrogen vehicle has not already taken this issue on.

For now I will just say that the California Legislature clearly intend to encourage clean-air vehicle purchases and to reward buyers of such with access to HOV ("diamond") commuter lanes. So why is DMV allowed to partially thwart these good intentions with long delays? As we know, HOV stickers already come with limited life-spans. Communication with DMV about applications is challenging, at best--more like impossible. Speaking as a (retired) state civil servant myself, I find the bureaucratic delay in receiving HOV stickers unnecessary and inexcusable, COVID or no COVID. If nothing else, applicants should receive emails/texts at key milestones--e.g., application received; application approved, et cetera. (For example, see my results, above, for the fast and communicative FasTrak CAV toll tag application procedure.) Better yet, EV drivers should not have to lose months off their legally-entitled access to commuter lanes.

*****

August 28, 2021 Addendum: History of HOV Sticker Eligible Cars

I highly doubt the program will be extended. It will have achieved its purpose. Maybe it'll continue for solar-powered vehicles without a plug or some other type of vehicle that is not numerous enough to clog up the HOV lanes. But personally, I don't think solar-powered cars without a plug are very environmentally friendly. It's way better to put the solar panels on a building and then charge the battery from the mains than put them on cars where they might not be generating any power if the car is parked indoors or has a battery that's already full.

Yes, the changes over time of this (of course politically-based) program has at least in part reflected what you said:
  • Started (1999?) with hybrids and battery cars.
  • The yellow-decal hybrid program was limited to just 85,000 vehicles.
  • At some point folded in (some, not all?) plug-in hybrids.
  • Likewise, hydrogen fuel cell cars.
  • Eventually phased out hybrids.
  • 2022 eligible vehicles apparently don't include Tesla cars?
This crude "history" (above) is not 100% accurate. See CAV Decal History & Legislation for more information (if you can stand plowing through all the laws and amendments). Influenced and pressured by lobbyists and special interests, the Legislature has passed bills and revisions over the years that have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to adapt in a timely fashion to the rapidly evolving low emissions vehicle landscape. Perhaps a better indication of the HOV sticker evolution is the list by make/model-year of vehicles eligible for carpool lane stickers:

CNG = compressed natural gas
LPG = liquefied petroleum gas
  • 1997: CNG (2)
  • 1998: CNG (2) & electric (1)
  • 1999: CNG (3) & electric (1)
  • 2000: CNG (3) & electric (1)
  • 2001: CNG (4) & electric (1)
  • 2002: CNG (3) & electric (1)
  • 2003: CNG (4), hydrogen (2), & electric (1)
  • 2004: CNG (4) & hydrogen (2)
  • 2005: CNG (6) & LPG (1)
  • 2006: CNG (4)
  • 2007: CNG (5) & hydrogen (3)
  • 2008: CNG (5), hydrogen (2), & electric (2, one is Roadster)
  • 2009: CNG (5), hydrogen (2), & battery electric (2, both Roadsters)
  • 2010: CNG (7), hydrogen (2), & electric (2, one is Roadster)
  • 2011: CNG (8), hydrogen (3), LPG (1), & electric (7, including Leaf)
  • 2012: CNG (15), hydrogen (2), electric (9, including Model S), & plug-in hybrid (2, including Volt and Prius)
  • 2013: CNG (9), LPG (1), hydrogen (1), electric (11), & plug-in hybrid (2, including Volt)
  • 2014: CNG (6), LPG (1), hydrogen (1), electric (13), & plug-in hybrid (8)
  • 2015: CNG (3), hydrogen (1), electric (15), & plug-in hybrid (6)
  • 2016: CNG (4), hydrogen (2), electric (18, including Model X), & plug-in hybrid (10)
  • 2017: hydrogen (3), electric (19, including Model 3), & plug-in hybrid (12)
  • 2018: hydrogen (2), electric (22), & plug-in hybrid (18)
  • 2019: hydrogen (3), electric (22), & plug-in hybrid (16)
  • 2020: hydrogen (3), electric (20, including Model Y), & plug-in hybrid (17)
  • 2021: hydrogen (3), electric (31), & plug-in hybrid (18)
  • 2022: electric (11; no Tesla?) & plug-in hybrid (7)
Source: Carpool Sticker List - Eligible Cars

Don't get bogged in the specific numbers; instead look at the gross patterns over time. Very interesting. We live in a period of rapid change to the fundamental standard of the personal vehicle. Before 1900 is was by horse. In the 20th Century it became petroleum-powered. We are now seeing the transition to electric-motor-driven. The question is not if electric vehicles will dominate car sales; but when electric vehicles will will be the predominate vehicle type (and also, yes, when will self-driving cars actually achieve true/safe Level 5 on-the-road performance).

One thing I noticed: no mention of the original hybrid vehicles, like Prius. Is that right, that Prius wasn't eligible until its plug-in version became available in 2012? I don't think that is right because there was the Yellow Decal Program in 2004 for hybrids, correct?

I am going to copy this to my first (OP, Post #1) post so it can be edited for corrections, if needed.
 
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AlexHung

Member
Mar 13, 2021
305
286
Santa Cruz, CA
I sent my check around 4/29 and still waiting for the sticker. However, I opened a FasTrak account as I need to drive up to Sacramento next week and I was expecting to get the regular tag. Instead the CAV tag arrives in the mail so I guess I don’t need to exchange it when the sticker arrives! 😀
 

CoolAztec

Member
Mar 4, 2021
17
6
Los Angeles
Great new thread, it will help many. My time was 90 days from mailing to check cashed, and got the stickers shortly after. I can confirm you don't need your plates, I submitted my form with only the VIN #. Good luck everyone!
 
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tps5352

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Oct 30, 2019
481
302
Bay-Delta Region, California, USA
So, as you can see in Post #1, it took 59 days for my $22 check to be cashed by DMV and 70 days to receive the HOV stickers. I live about 20 miles away from the Sacramento DMV office that handles HOV applications, I believe.

It would be interesting to know the volume of applications DMV is receiving, and to chart those numbers over time. Application mumbers are probably growing all the time with all the various electric and hydrogen car models; but totals would probably still be quite small compared to numbers of registrations of ICE vehicles. I believe California had a grand total of about 425,300 light-duty electric vehicles registered as of 2020. (That includes brand new and used, previously-registered, vehicles.)
 
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everydaychris

Member
Feb 10, 2020
629
322
CA
Sweet mercy. My check just cashed.

I sent it in 4/29 lol
I ended up sending in ANOTHER one last week so hopefully they don't double charge me.
 

tps5352

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Oct 30, 2019
481
302
Bay-Delta Region, California, USA
Sweet mercy. My check just cashed.

I sent it in 4/29 lol
I ended up sending in ANOTHER one last week so hopefully they don't double charge me.

I did that once (back in 2017 when I first had my Honda Clarity fuel cell car). DMV eventually returned one of the checks, if I recall. It took some time though. Anyway, they only cashed one check and I eventually got my stickers. You will too, I predict. System works, but is very slow. Maybe DMV has only one (part-time) retired-annuitant staff person (or unpaid intern) for entire HOV sticker program? Or the program is being handled by Prison Industries? (Ha, ha.)

DMV should have email and/or text program where you are alerted when (a) DMV receives application, (b) application is complete, (c) check is cashed, and/or (d) stickers are mailed (so you can be on the lookout). Even if application timeline was not shortened, better communications might alleviate, say, 60% of the complaints and applicant anxiety.
 

bayarea97

Member
Feb 1, 2021
57
54
Bay Area
DMV should have email and/or text program where you are alerted when (a) DMV receives application, (b) application is complete, (c) check is cashed, and/or (d) stickers are mailed (so you can be on the lookout). Even if application timeline was not shortened, better communications might alleviate, say, 60% of the complaints and applicant anxiety.
That makes too much sense for the DMV
 
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tps5352

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Oct 30, 2019
481
302
Bay-Delta Region, California, USA
...DMV should have email and/or text program where you are alerted when (a) DMV receives application, (b) application is complete, (c) check is cashed, and/or (d) stickers are mailed (so you can be on the lookout). Even if application timeline was not shortened, better communications might alleviate, say, 60% of the complaints and applicant anxiety.

See Past #1. After just two days I received a confirmatory email from FasTrak (located in San Francisco) with information about my CAV toll tag application. Excellent work, FasTrak! (Any FasTrak employees in the TMC Forum?) To paraphrase an old expression, now that is the way to run a "railroad." I will definitely be taking the time to submit positive feedback about the FasTrak program.
 

wrongrobot

Member
Apr 21, 2021
12
12
SF CA
I was glad to read the asterix on the OP. I had sent in my app for stickers based on the temp plate mistakenly thinking the temp plate was the #s actually assigned to the car permanently (maybe? Maybe not? I still don't get it. New to me) and then realized something was up with the temp plate when I couldn't find it in the DMV records when trying to get personalized plates. Good to know the app will go through on the temp plate numbers!
Last car I got we didn't have such paper plates!
 

tps5352

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Oct 30, 2019
481
302
Bay-Delta Region, California, USA
I was glad to read the asterix on the OP. I had sent in my app for stickers based on the temp plate mistakenly thinking the temp plate was the #s actually assigned to the car permanently (maybe? Maybe not? I still don't get it. New to me) and then realized something was up with the temp plate when I couldn't find it in the DMV records when trying to get personalized plates. Good to know the app will go through on the temp plate numbers!
Last car I got we didn't have such paper plates!

That is what I read somewhere else in this Forum.

Now I personally cannot promise that your HOV sticker application will goes faster or slower than that of people who wait for their permanent plates. But I read that DMV focuses on the VIN, and that they accept (i.e., will not kick back) an application with the temporary plate number (which is indeed different than the permanent plate number, based on my experience).

Hopefully you will have no problems.

Please report back to us, if you will, with the times it takes to get your (a) permanent plates (should be about 1 month) and (b) HOV stickers (should be about 2 months to cash your check, plus another 7-14 days to receive your stickers). If your HOV sticker time (from application to receipt) is the same (i.e., ~2.5 months), it will indeed mean that applying at the start, with just the temporary license number, is faster--saving the month necessary to receive the permanent plates. It took me ~3.5 months to get the HOV stickers from the time I accepted the new car, bercause I waited until I got the permanent plates.
 
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tps5352

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Oct 30, 2019
481
302
Bay-Delta Region, California, USA
Did you submit the application for the rebate as well? Clean Vehicle Rebate Project

Not me. AFAIK, Tesla Models S and X (either pre-refresh or refresh) are not eligible in 2021 for the CVR, correct? If I recall from the news, buyers of these cars are judged by legislators to be too well-heeled (an outrageous example of the pot calling the kettle "black") and therefore inappropriate targets for environmental rebates. Ironically, as a humble retired state civil servant I saved for quite awhile to be able to afford a Model X (began test-driving Models S and X in 2016). With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight I should have purchased my car in December 2020 when there was still a rebate for Model X. (But I was banking on certain improvements with the 2021 "refresh"--but was eventually disappointed--and I had my Honda Clarity car lease to burn off until May 2021.) That is the way it goes.

I eventually purchased and took procession of a new Model X (new inventory car from Hawaii!) on March 17, 2021, so even if eligible for a CVR I am now outside the allowed 3-month purchase window for viable application. Meanwhile, eligible Tesla Models 3 and Y buyers may eventual get a 2021 $2,000 rebate, right? There is apparently a waiting list and delay as funding (probably from federal sources via the State Air Resources Board) makes its way to California. Instead I have had to settle for (and am appreciative of) the federal $1,500 bonus (deducted directly from the price of the vehicle) and the HOV sticker and FasTrak CAV toll tag programs.

Back in 2017 I applied for and eventually received a state rebate ($5,000) just for leasing a Honda Clarity fuel cell car. At that time Tesla cars were getting sizeable rebates too, I think. Ah, the good old days.
 
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